I wrote a while ago (here) about the various networking groups in the area and since then I've got myself a bit hooked! So I thought I'd give you my top tips to successful networking.
Avoid the Farmyard
Pardon??? What I mean is, try to avoid being rabbits, sheep and cockerels. You've seen the types...
- Rabbits (particularly the ones caught in headlights) will walk into a room and look terrified. They don't know anyone, don't have a lot of confidence and won't start a conversation with anyone. Not great for networking. Try not to be a rabbit but if you see one, go and introduce yourself.
- Sheep are followers. They also stick together. They'll walk into a room, spot someone they know and head straight over. That's not really broadening your horizons is it? Get out of your comfort zone and speak to someone new. Maybe a rabbit?
- Cockerels make a lot of noise. They walk into a room, pick the closest person and set their mouth to transmit. They'll tell you everything you need to know about them and a whole load of stuff you don't need to know as well. They will immediately sell sell sell. You're lucky if they ask you name let alone what you do. Do not be this person!
Always. And carefully. People can tell if you're bored so be interested in what they're saying. Don't just go in hoping to sell. Sometimes networking can be good for cheaper or better suppliers, or just good advice. So listen to what other people have to say. You might just learn something!
Stand Out from the Crowd
OK, don't just be a cockerel and be the loudest, but try to be a bit different. Be the one people remember. In some groups there can be more than one person in a particular sector. Which one will people remember? Make sure it's you. I heard a story about a web designer who turned up to a group dressed as Spider Man! You don't have to be that extreme though. I've managed to (quite quickly) get a reputation as 'that photographer with the flowery shirts'. That works well on 2 levels. First, they remember I'm a photographer. And second, they remember me rather than any other photographer. Of course it does mean I always need to have a flowery shirt!
Give it Time
Networking is about building relationships. You're unlikely to find huge repeat business (or much business at all) at your first meeting. It takes a while for people to get to know you as a person, like you and trust you. It's worth the wait though. Once you have someone's trust they are much more likely to recommend you to their friends. Often without having used you themselves.